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Press release: Enhancing the Eastern Partnership: Time for Action

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”European Neighbourhood policy has to be successful and, in the middle of the debt crisis, support progress in countries striving for democracy and rule of law. It takes decisiveness and a capability to prioritise both in political co-operation and between reforms enhancing all forces looking to Europe for guidance and support”, said Gunnar Hökmark MEP, Vice-Chairman of the EPP Group, at the Group’s Bureau meeting in Wrocław, Poland.

The Eastern Partnership, a Swedish-Polish initiative that is a logical consequence of the 2004 enlargement, aims to give the countries in the eastern neighbourhood access to the internal market and further European co-operation but requires at the same time political and economical reforms. Both the EU and its neighbours will gain a lot from this.

The Eastern Partnership includes six countries: Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine. Top priority is trade agreements that give them access to the world’s largest market, the European internal market.

We should also soon dispose of visa regulations to give citizens of our neighboring countries free movement in the Schengen area thus enhancing closeness and co-operation. This requires specific reforms and strict criteria to be fulfilled.

But the neighbourhood policy is about more than economy, trade and free movement. It also includes educational support, such as grants to help young people from these countries to study at European universities, strengthening their countries and their own possibilities for the future. Co-operation on energy is likewise important. The EU should assist with infrastructure including gas pipes that benefits all concerned and strengthens further co-operation across borders”, concluded Gunnar Hökmark.